The Chinook salmon (Okanagan population) are anadromous salmon migrating to and from the Pacific Ocean through the Columbia River and Okanagan Lake. Independent yet "loosely schooling," the Chinook tend to congregate together in areas with underwater structures, such as reefs, rocks, banks, and depressions. While spawning in summer and early fall, they take routes close to land and generally hole-up overnight in the calm waters close to shore. The Chinook salmon (Okanagan population) once occupied the area from Osoyoos Lake to Okanagan Lake, but McIntryre Dam near Oliver, BC, an irrigation diversion project completed in 1954, now blocks fish from continuing upriver. Currently, the population's northern freshwater limit is the McIntyre Dam and its southern freshwater limit may be the north basin of Osoyoos Lake, immediately north of the BC border with Washington State. Some of the Chinook salmon appear to be non-anadromous, spending their entire lives in Osoyoos Lake.
The largest of Pacific salmon species, an adult Chinook salmon is capable of growing to five feet long and weighing 45 kilograms or more. The Chinook is easily distinguished from other salmon, by factors other than its larger size. Anglers often refer to it as the handsomest of the salmon. The Chinook has black gums, giving it the name "blackmouth" in some areas. Black dots extend from its gill plates across its back and tail. Ocean dwelling Chinook have blue-green sides which blacken in summer, and silver undersides. Also, unique in scent, those familiar with salmon can identify the Chinook by smell alone. Chinook are also the only salmon to have two different genetic strains, giving it either white or pink meat. When Chinook are on their spawning run, their colour is red to copper to almost black, depending on locations and maturity. Males have deeper colours than the females.
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